Win, Lose, or Evolve

It’s the end of the year, and though I write (far) less often, I still find myself in a reflective mood as the calendar turns over.  This last year has been difficult for many people who believe themselves to be forward-thinking.  Just when it seemed like we were finally beginning to talk about things that actually mattered–rights for the disadvantaged or oppressed, incremental attention to environmental issues, consideration of a foreign policy based on diplomacy rather than big-dick military saber-rattling, some semblance of rational thought about the appropriate roles of religion versus science in dictating policy decisions–the whole world apparently lost its mind.

Like a lot of folks, I had many thoughts on the election of our current president; what it said about us as a country, what it said about our priorities, what it said to the world about who we are and what we want to be, and what it said to ourselves about ourselves.  In retrospect, the reasons for his election seem fairly obvious:

  1. Too few people in this country vote.  This may be because they don’t care about politics, or because they believe that government has a limited effect on their day-to-day existence, or because we don’t make it easy enough for them to get to the polls, or because they don’t feel informed enough to make a responsible decision, or for any number of superficial reasons, or for the very real reason that people of a certain political bent have made it increasingly difficult for people who don’t share their opinions to exercise their rights (especially if those opinions are accompanied by darker skin).  But, regardless of reason, the fact remains that fewer than half of people old enough to vote do so.  This gives extra weight to those people who are actually able to cast a ballot.  This is amplified in our primary system, where even fewer people vote, leading candidates to go all-in with their appeals to the most passionate and extreme members of their party.
  2. We have fallen into the trap of conflating wealth and notoriety with capability.  Because someone has shown up on our televisions or social media feeds, we credit them with intelligence or wisdom that they have not displayed.  And, if someone has accumulated a large amount of money, we equate that with accumulation of knowledge or ability, whether they did anything to earn that financial standing or not.  We think anyone with any amount of public recognition must have done something to deserve it, forgetting that it is just as easy (if not easier) to get famous acting like a jackass than through genuine accomplishment.  And, by kowtowing to these people, we are only reinforcing the illusion that they somehow are deserving of this recognition, deference, or respect.
  3. Republicans are good at politics.  This is difficult to admit for those of us on the left, but the truth is that Republicans are better at this game than we are.  While we try to appeal to everyone about everything, Republicans have realized that you can’t please everyone on every issue.  But, what they figured out is that you can appeal to a huge number of people, one issue at a time.  That’s how they can win among hard-core Christian Evangelicals, financial conservatives, gun enthusiasts, anti-abortion advocates, racists, misogynists, and nihilists all at the same time, even if these issues don’t appear to overlap.  Our current president has been called all these things, but the reality is that he is whatever he needs to be in the moment.  So long as each of these groups hears what they want to hear about the issue they care most for, they are willing to overlook all the things they don’t like about the Republican platform.  The Democratic party constantly edits its message, knowing that one false step will alienate a chunk of its base.  They have to get everything right on every issue to hold off the protestations of their voters.  Republicans just have to get one thing right at a time, depending on who they are trying to reach at that particular moment.  And, they know that fear is strong.  Democrats try to run on optimism, genuinely believing that things might just possibly get a little bit better.  Republicans can win elections just by scaring people into believing that things might get worse.  Our current president, for all his faults (and there are many), is very good at appealing to people’s sense of fear.  He has demonized everyone, turned the whole world into something to be scared of, and without even offering any respite from that fear, has won support just by convincing people that there really is something to be scared of.

Now that he is in office, his lack of qualification for the job is becoming more difficult to ignore.  He is uninformed, petty, narcissistic, childish, spiteful, and blatantly dishonest.  And, though he appears to be increasingly unpopular, even among those who voted for him, he has done a tremendous amount of damage to our nation and its livelihood just by perpetuating a troubling political trend.  More than anything else, his legacy will be a solidification of the dangerous belief that politics is all about winning.

Through most of this nation’s history, we have been represented in government by people who genuinely had an interest in making our country better.  We could argue endlessly over their methods, or politics, or ulterior motives, or the repercussions of legislation they passed.  But, there was a belief that every decision, regardless of political affiliation, was intended to do some good for the country as a whole.  It is impossible to ignore the xenophobes, warmongers, oppressors, and profiteers who have represented both parties over the years.  But, these traits were secondary, or at least seemed to be.  Now, they represent the entire platform for many of those we have elected to make our decisions for us.

And, even more dangerous than this is the explosion of tribalism in current politics.  Substance no longer matters.  The only determiner of value is affiliation.  Everyone has picked a side, and believes that their side can do no wrong, while the other can do no right.  This is how politics is played now, and again, Republicans are playing it better.  Taxes?  Abortion?  Gun control?  Health care?  LGBTQ rights?  Climate change?  Income equality?  Those are liberal ideas.  That makes them bad.  And, if you want to be on the Republican team, you’re against them, whether they have anything to do with you or not.  That’s why someone buried in debt and struggling to pay his own bills is willing to go to war over the estate tax, and why someone living on the coast watching the oceans creep closer to his own front door can scream about the virtues of burning fossil fuels.  It doesn’t matter whether something is good policy.  It only matters whose policy it is.  This gives people something to hold on to, even as they watch the world burn around them.  It feels good to be on the winning team, even if that team is doing nothing at all to help most of those who support them.

And, this winning can take many forms.  It’s not just about winning elections or passing legislation.  Often, it is about nothing more than provoking a reaction.  Telling a lie on television and getting away with it?  That’s a win.  Reviving our racist and sexist roots by “Making America Great Again?”  That’s a big win.  Privileged white people crying about how unfair the world is to silence the legitimately oppressed?  A win.  Fighting the media by dismissing inconvenient truths as “fake news?”  That’s a win, too.  This scoring method is skewing how politicians are judged.  The passage of the recent tax plan by the president and the Republicans in Congress was called a win by virtually every news outlet, despite most of them also pointing out the many ways in which it would serve to reward the rich and punish everyone else.  Even though only a few already wealthy people would actually benefit, anyone calling themselves a Republican got to crow about this victory.  This winning matters so much that Republicans are willing to overlook any number of sins.  Let’s not forget that we have a president elected solely on the basis of all the winning he promised to do, despite his history of multiple bankruptcies and admitted sexual assault.

Republicans have changed the game, and Democrats risk falling into the trap of going along with these new rules.  During the election season, Democrats said, “When they go low, we go high.”  This is a noble idea.  I like the idea of avoiding petty insults and remaining focused on the ideals of beneficent governance.  But, the truth is, this doesn’t win elections.  And, without winning elections, our ideals don’t mean a thing.  However, it would be foolish to follow the lead of the Republicans, as they may have over-played their hand.  For years, Republicans have been playing a long game, winning local elections, redrawing districts in a way that tips the scales in their favor, loading judicial benches with judges sympathetic to their politics.  But, they have now sold out to a very small portion of their base: those extremists who vote in primaries, and the wealthy donors who fund their campaigns.  So, while the whole party celebrates each “win,” these are the only groups who actually get what they want.  Extremists get judges who push back against abortion or same-sex marriage, and rich folks get tax breaks that turn their millions into billions.  Everyone else just gets the Pyrrhic victory of laughing at Democrats not getting what they want, but then goes back to their lives, no better off than before.  This is not a formula for lasting success.  At some point, everyone else will need to see some benefit to believe that they are actually winning.  It’s one thing to tell someone about all the jobs that will be created with a border wall, or a new oil pipeline, or lower corporate taxes.  It’s another thing to try to maintain the illusion when those jobs fail to materialize.

To this point, Republicans have been able to scapegoat Democrats for all the misfortunes that Americans are facing.  But, truth will win out in the end.  It has to.  Democrats are far from perfect, but they must continue to have higher standards for themselves.  They must continue to rely on facts and science and morality and compassion to guide them.  They must continue to go high while the Republicans go low, knowing that Republicans are digging themselves into a hole.  Democrats must aim higher, move forward, and become the party that changes the game.  Because, it can be changed.  Republicans have already proven that.  And, if it changed for the worse, we can change it for the better.  Politics can continue to evolve.  It does not have to be this way.  We can make it into what we want it to be.  We can try to actually make positive, progressive change.

So, let’s not be distracted by name-calling, or hung up on “wins” and “losses.”  Those things are fleeting.  We want lasting change.  We need to play the long game.  We need to continue to aim high and force the country to come up to that level.  And, if the Democrats are not willing to be the party that institutes that change, we need to create a new party.  We don’t need to play by the old rules.  If they’re not working, let’s write new rules.  If we truly have a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” we can make the government into whatever we want it to be.  The fact that it was a Republican who originally made that demand shows just how much things can change.

Yes, things are bad right now.  And, losing hurts.  But, let these losses be lessons.  Let them be reminders of the way that we want the world to be, and let them inspire us to continue to fight for something better.

It Is Not Enough To Be Right: Using Truth As A Weapon

As the old year comes to a close and a new one begins, it is natural to reflect.  And, to progressives, last year was marked by various victories and defeats.  For all the expansions in health care coverage, same-sex marriage rights, decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, and positive job numbers, there were setbacks in racial relations, police brutality, income inequality, and even Congressional representation.  But, it is important to note that none of these are actually wins or losses.  They are merely steps forward or back in a fight that is far from over.  It is easy to forget this, as many of these steps backward certainly felt like losses, and progressives–myself included–want so badly for the steps forward to be wins.

This reality was put into perspective by David Kaib in a piece titled, “Every inch won should lead us to demand more.”  The entire post is well worth a read, but there were a few portions I found to be especially good reminders that each step forward is not an end of a fight, but rather a toehold for a new attack.  His piece begins by pointing out that even our “victories” are not always what they seem.  He uses the example of the proposed minimum wage increase.  A push for $10.10/hour by President Obama and many Democrats is progress, but it falls far short of the $15 demanded by workers.  Settling for the smaller wage is not a win, it is a concession, further diminished by the fact that loopholes and partisan politics mean few will actually see their wages rise to $10.10 any time soon.  Victories are not made of half-measures.  There are numerous examples of similar concessions dressed up as progressive victories.  The Affordable Care Act has led to millions of people getting heath insurance, but to celebrate it as a win ignores that the real goal should have been universal Medicare-style coverage for all Americans.  A step in the right direction does not mean that the fight has been won.  And, to fawn over notable progressives is to be blind to the fact that they are still outnumbered in Congress by those on the fringes of the right.

Kaib says:

The inclination to declare premature victory seems to me a common affliction, as evidenced by the responses to the election of Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bill De Blasio. Another example is the victory laps taken in response to a small number of members of Congress embracing ideas like Social Security expansion or postal banking. Celebrating steps along the way is essential, but too often it seems like the first steps are treated as evidence of a changed game.

And, he is correct.  It is not enough for a few members of Congress to embrace progressive issues.  They need to fight for them.  They need to win over other members of their party.  They need to propose legislation, and most importantly, they need to pass it.  Now, the realities of being a minority party in Congress make the latter goal highly implausible, at least for now.  But, that does not mean that it should be dismissed as a goal.  Why admit defeat without fighting the fight?  And, it is not just our representatives who must wage this battle.  We must play our part by demanding it of them.  We must support candidates who take a bold stand on truly progressive issues.  A stalemate in Congress is no reason to propose anything less than everything we want.  Even if Republicans oppose voting rights, or women’s health care, or gun control, or environmental regulation, we should not stop fighting for them.

For many progressives, the thought of being on the “right side” of an issue is enough.  The thinking seems to be that patience will win out in the end, that sooner or later, everyone else will come around and see the light.  After all, if what is right is evident to us, surely everyone else must see it eventually, right?  And, fighting is so ugly and uncivilized.  Instead, we gather our facts and our altruistic ideals and wait for the world to catch up, hoping that truth or science or simply compassion for other humans will do our fighting for us.  And, that is why we have to settle for half-measures instead of full victories.  We cannot win if we are not willing to fight.

Kaib continues:

People love the idea of winning without a fight. You see that in the hope of many Democrats that the Republicans will be so extreme that voters will reject them without Democrats having to take a stand on anything. You see it in their insistence that demographic changes will lead to the demise of the Republican Party, despite the fact that those demographics are malleable and a product of politics. You see it when people offer charts and stats alone as if bare facts ever convinced anyone of anything, or their efforts to argue in favor of (mildly) liberal ends from conservative starting points. You see it in the efforts to avoid taking stances that conservatives will oppose (as if they won’t move to oppose what ever previously reasonable position liberals take.) You see it in the simultaneous claim that the ACA is a great success and a frustration its opponents are still pushing back.

But, we cannot win without a fight.  That is why we must not only be willing to fight, but eager.  We must identify the things that are worth fighting for and then take a stand, boldly.  Being right is simply not enough.  Truth can be a weapon, but we must wield it.  It gives us an advantage, but it will not defeat ignorance or folly if we do not use it.  It can change hearts and minds, but only if it is unsheathed.  And, that means charging into battle.  We can make the change we want, but we have to earn it.  Change will not happen unless we make it.

Kaib–and Frederick Douglass–agrees:

I love the idea of winning a fight. I love it because our opponents are wrong and deserve to be beaten. I love it because winning begets winning. I love it because, as Frederick Douglass taught us, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

He emphasizes the word “fight,” and that is important.  The fight–the struggle–is what matters.  Our opponents are wrong, and they do deserve to be beaten.  And, each step forward makes the next one more attainable.

Kaib then reminds us the value of having a “utopian demand.”  We can aim for small victories, but aiming higher can yield greater rewards.  It is not foolish to want more than what seems easily won.  This type of grand ambition is required to truly make any kind of drastic change.  Why settle for $10.10/hour if we deserve $15?  Why settle for insurance for some when we should have insurance for everyone?  Why settle at all?

There is no room for subtlety. Only bold stands will work.  The refusal to settle for anything less than victory is the only way to move forward.  Deep down, we know this, but sometimes we need to be reminded.  We must march, we must shout, we must vote, and we must fight, because we must win.

From Protest to Power: What’s Next for #OccupyWallStreet?

Day 20 Occupy Wall Street October 5 2011 Shank...

What was originally a small, localized protest of a few hundred people near Wall Street in downtown New York has spread over the last month to include hundreds of cities in dozens of countries, and thousands and thousands of supporters.  At this point, it is undeniable that the Occupy Wall Street movement has caught the attention of the world.  More than thousand protesters have been arrested in support of their ideal of a more fair economic system in which the deck is not stacked in favor of those that already have more money than they could ever possibly spend.  They are camping out on the streets of Manhattan and all over the world in a call for a system that does not treat those without seven-figure bank accounts as expendable and insignificant.  These people are standing up for the huge majority of Americans that want nothing more than the opportunity to work and provide for the their own well-being, as well as that of their families.  And, after a little over a month of protests, marches, sign-waving, and arrests, they have finally caught the attention of the mainstream media.  But, now that they have the attention of the world, what comes next?

The first thing that must be recognized is that Occupy Wall Street is a movement with no political affiliation, unlike the Tea Party, who were quickly absorbed by the Republican Party.  Though they have been extremely critical of the Republicans and their horribly unfair financial policies, the OWS protesters do not consider themselves Democrats.  In fact, they have been almost as vocally critical of President Obama and his party as they have of anyone on the Right.  In their eyes, Wall Street and the entire economic system are the problem, and the Democrats are just as complicit in allowing that to continue as the Republicans.

But, despite their resistance to align themselves with a political party, the fact remains that only by influencing those in power and encouraging them to vote in a certain way can the Occupy Wall Street movement hope to become a true force for change.  Protest is great, but it does not change public policies.  That can only be done by working within the system of government, enacting new laws and retracting old ones.

Chris Hedges, in an article at Truthout, disagrees:

The Occupy Wall Street movement, like all radical movements, has obliterated the narrow political parameters. It proposes something new. It will not make concessions with corrupt systems of corporate power. It holds fast to moral imperatives regardless of the cost. It confronts authority out of a sense of responsibility. It is not interested in formal positions of power. It is not seeking office. It is not trying to get people to vote. It has no resources. It can’t carry suitcases of money to congressional offices or run millions of dollars of advertisements. All it can do is ask us to use our bodies and voices, often at personal risk, to fight back. It has no other way of defying the corporate state. This rebellion creates a real community instead of a managed or virtual one. It affirms our dignity. It permits us to become free and independent human beings.

I understand his position, and I respect the nobility and dignity of protest for protest’s sake.  He’s right that these protesters are putting themselves at risk to stand up for something that they deeply believe in.  But, it must be admitted that for all the attention these protests have received, they have not actually changed anything yet.  Wall Street and the banks are still doing all of the things that the protesters are railing against.  Without prosecuting them for their crimes against the middle and lower classes, and without new legislation that prohibits them from continuing their corrupt practices, the 99% will remain the abused victims of a greedy minority that cares nothing for them or their well-being.  As long as corporations are allowed to continue calling the shots, nothing will truly change.

But, Hedges continues:

The stupidity of the corporate state is that it thought it could dispense with the liberal class. It thought it could shut off that safety valve in order to loot and pillage with no impediments. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And the reduction of the liberal class to silly courtiers, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, meant that the growing discontent found other mechanisms and outlets. Liberals were reduced to stick figures, part of an elaborate pantomime, as they acted in preordained roles to give legitimacy to meaningless and useless political theater. But that game is over.

Human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are brutally discarded. The liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state, has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as the engines of corporate power pollute and poison the ecosystem and propel us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded by both the corporate state and radical dissidents. The best it can do is attach itself meekly to the new political configuration rising up to replace it.

An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope of a correction or a reversal through the formal mechanisms of power. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression now in these protests that lie outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. By emasculating the liberal class, which once ensured that restive citizens could institute moderate reforms, the corporate state has created a closed system defined by polarization, gridlock and political charades. It has removed the veneer of virtue and goodness that the liberal class offered to the power elite.

Liberal institutions, including the church, the press, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts and labor unions, set the parameters for limited self-criticism in a functioning democracy as well as small, incremental reforms. The liberal class is permitted to decry the worst excesses of power and champion basic human rights while at the same time endowing systems of power with a morality and virtue it does not possess. Liberals posit themselves as the conscience of the nation. They permit us, through their appeal to public virtues and the public good, to see ourselves and our state as fundamentally good.

But the liberal class, by having refused to question the utopian promises of unfettered capitalism and globalization and by condemning those who did, severed itself from the roots of creative and bold thought, the only forces that could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. The liberal class, which at once was betrayed and betrayed itself, has no role left to play in the battle between us and corporate dominance. All hope lies now with those in the street.

I include such a large portion of his article because he writes so well, and because he raises some very valid points.  He attacks the current liberal class for having removed itself from its ideals and submitting to the attractions of wealth and privilege, and he’s absolutely correct.  He says that the protesters in the street are the only fighters left in the battle against Wall Street and the corporations that have taken control of our government, and again, he is correct.

But, I would argue that the people in power that call themselves Liberals are not liberal at all.  They have drifted to the Center (and some even further to the Right than that), and no longer deserve the moniker of a liberal class.  They have betrayed most of what that name stands for.  I would encourage the protesters in the streets, at Wall Street and across America, to take back that name, for they are the true liberal class now.  He calls them radical dissidents, and perhaps they are, but they are also the new voice of the Left.  As such, they have a responsibility to shift the balance of power.  As Conservatives and old-school Liberals have moved further and further to the Right, it is now the task of this new class of true liberals and radicals to strengthen the Left and keep everything that they stand for from being swept under the rug and forgotten.

This idea is explored by Michael Lind in an article for Salon, where he compares the Radical movement of today with that of the late 1960s.  He explains the need for a far-Left to balance the presence of a far-Right, a position held today by the Tea Party.  The Tea Party has dragged the entire Republican Party, and most of American politics along with it, to the Right.  But, the Tea Party, which originally claimed to be an independent movement, was co-opted by the Republican Party to the point that the two are now indistinguishable.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is fighting hard to avoid being similarly co-opted by the Democratic Party.  Lind says that this does not necessarily have to happen:

But there are other possibilities.  Democratic strategists across the country are no doubt pondering how the somewhat unfocused demonstrators can be turned into a “Tea Party of the left” that can be deployed as reliable Democratic voters in future elections.  Other members of the progressive establishment may try to co-opt this essentially anti-political movement into the elaborate structure of single-issue progressive patronage networks.

Maybe occupiers can be persuaded to join minorities, women, LGBTs and environmentalists as officially sanctioned progressive interest groups.  Maybe in 10 years there will be foundation-funded Occupation programs, each with their own well-paid administrators, followed 20 years from now by endowed chairs in Occupation Studies, occupied by chubby, middle-aged veterans of Zuccotti Park.

There is a third, more promising possibility.  Instead of provoking a conservative backlash, or being co-opted by the existing progressive identity-politics machine, the Occupy Wall Street movement could indirectly benefit the American center-left by re-creating an American radical left.

It is undeniably true the Democratic Party has abandoned its progressive roots.  They have become a party of compromise instead of a party that fights for what it says it believes in.  And, because of this compromise, it has become difficult to tell if they truly believe in anything at all.  But, the Occupy Wall Street movement is helping to remind them of what it is that they should be fighting for.  Whether they take up that fight or not remains to be seen, but it appears that the fight may be beginning.  As noted by Michael Cohen at AlterNet, it appears that the swing in public opinion that has been generated by the protest could have its effects felt in the upcoming Presidential election:

It’s been a long time since economic, anti-corporate and liberal populism has lit a fire among ordinary Americans. As for popular protest, it’s been even less successful in mobilising public opinion.

From this perspective, OWS has arisen not because of the left’s activism, but despite it. Focusing on electoral victories and legislative accomplishments, the left has failed to push an effective populist movement, focusing its energy more on social issues than economic ones. Democratic leaders have stayed at arm’s length from the party’s activist base for fear of being stained by their perceived political excesses (a position that has rightly alienated a generation of liberals). Considering these larger failures of the left, it seems almost appropriate that OWS has come about in such an organic and ad hoc manner.

It raises the question of what this all means for American politics and, in particular, next year’s presidential election. There is certainly the possibility that the demonstrators, many of whom are firmly ensconced on the fringes of American politics, will spark a backlash or that the movement, which still lacks a clear agenda, will fizzle out.

But there is another real possibility – that OWS will affect the near-term trajectory of American politics. While many of the protesters are unhappy with the current progressive president, their grievances and demands are very much at one with Obama’s emerging re-election strategy.

The Occupiers have called themselves the other 99% – to contrast themselves from the richest 1%. For a president intent on running as an economic populist, a populist political movement might just be what the doctor ordered. No doubt Obama would have liked to see a movement like this a few years ago; it might have helped him pass his agenda through a recalcitrant Congress, but, hey, better late than never (and on this, he is hardly blameless).

So, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are beginning to have an effect on national politics.  Instead of running from that fact, they should be embracing it.  They have captured the attention of the entire world, and now they have a chance to enact meaningful changes that address the concerns of the 99% of this country that they stand for.  Though they have repeatedly said that they don’t have any kind of official leadership, and their success up to this point may be in large part because of that fact, it remains that without having people representing their interests in positions of power within the government, their movement is in danger of fading away before they are able to make the changes they are hoping for.

The various protesters across the country see themselves as part of a movement, and they shun any comparisons to the Tea Party, and with good reason.  The Tea Party was a movement that was quickly co-opted and corrupted by aligning itself with the Republican Party.  Add that to their policies against the middle and lower classes, as well as the elderly and the sick, and it’s easy to see why the Occupy Wall Streeters would want to distance themselves from the Tea Party.  But, the Tea Party does deserve credit on one count.  By electing people sympathetic to their cause, however despicable it might be, they were able to have their voices heard in Congress, and were able to influence legislation.  This is the sort of influence that is now needed by the current crop of protesters.

George Lakoff at Truthout agrees:

The Tea Party solidified the power of the conservative worldview via elections. OWS will have no long-term effect unless it, too, brings its moral focus to the 2012 elections. Insist on supporting candidates that have your overall moral views, no matter what the local issues are.

Occupy elections: voter registration drives, town hall meetings, talk radio airtime, party organizations, nomination campaigns, election campaigns and voting booths.

There are already hints that the protesters are coming to these same realizations.  There are rumors of an upcoming National General Assembly scheduled for next year, featuring delegates from all of the various protests representing each of the nation’s Congressional Districts.  This would be a great first step, but it is not far enough.  The only way to truly change the process by which our government works is to become directly involved in the government and the decision-making process.  But, instead of being co-opted by the Democratic Party, they should co-opt the Party instead.  They need to force them to move away from the Center, and back to the Left where they belong.  They have made it quite clear what issues are important to them and important to the American people.  Democrats suffered huge losses in the last election cycle, and unless they are able to rediscover what it is that they should be standing for, they are in danger of becoming less and less relevant.  They have compromised again and again, to the point that they have abandoned their constituents.  The people want a liberal voice in government, and Occupy Wall Street has become that voice.  They need to make that voice heard.  And, if the people in Congress don’t want to speak for them, then they need to get people elected that will.  They need leaders, not just among themselves, but in the government.  This may seem contrary to the horizontal leadership of the current General Assemblies, but it is necessary if these protests are to have any hope of becoming more than just a movement.  And, they have the potential to be so much more.  They are in a position where they have the support of a majority of the country.  Now, they have to turn that support into actual change.